Israelis are being killed and injured in a wave of Palestinian terror attacks
In the past week, Palestinians have attacked Israelis with guns, knives, firebombs and stones in what some are calling the beginnings of a "third intifada". At least 20 Israelis have been injured and 4 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terror attacks across Israel. (For a timeline of the violence over the past month - see here).
Israelis killed in recent attacks include:
- On October 1, Eitam Henkin and his wife Naama were murdered by Palestinian gunmen while in their car. Their four young sons, aged 9, 7, 4 and four-months, were in the backseat of the car during the shooting and were unharmed. Israeli authorities tracked down the terrorists who confessed to the crime and to being members of Hamas.
- On October 3, two Israeli men, Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, and Aharon Banita, 22, were killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem's Old City. The two died of their wounds shortly after being stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist. Banita's wife was also injured and was in serious condition and their two-year-old baby was lightly wounded. The terrorist was identified as Muhannad Shafeq Halabi, 19 and Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, while Hamas issued a statement praising the "heroic operation."
- October 7 - Four separate attacks took place against Israelis. A soldier was stabbed in the southern city of Kiryat Gat, a man was stabbed in the Old City of Jerusalem, a woman was attacked with stones as she drove to the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, and a man was stabbed in Petah Tikva.
- October 8 - Four more stabbing attacks took place. A man was stabbed in Jerusalem, another was stabbed in Kiryat Arba, five people were wounded in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, and a solider was stabbed in the northern Israeli city of Afula.
The violence has primarily been incited by the false claim that Israel intends to change the status quo on the Temple Mount to take part or all of it over for Jewish use. This claim is completely untrue. Under the terms of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the Temple Mount remains under Jordanian custodianship through the Waqf authorities, who maintain administrative charge of the holy site.
Palestinians riots in Israel and the West Bank have led to clashes with Israeli security forces.
Palestinians have stored weapons on the Temple Mount including explosive devices, turning the holy site into a battlefield with Israeli authorities. On Thursday, a demonstration of 200 Palestinians in Nazareth turned violent as Israeli Police attempted to disperse the rioters. Clashes between the IDF and Palestinians have led to Palestinian fatalities including during or after the commission of Palestinian terror attacks.
The aim of the Palestinian riots and attacks is to prevent visits by non-Muslims on the Temple Mount. This year around 4,000,000 Muslims have entered the site, 200,000 Christians, and only 12,000 Jews, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest place in Islam, but under the "status quo", Jews may visit the site at certain restricted times but are not allowed to pray there.
There have been calls by some groups in Israel to allow for Jewish prayer at the site. However, the government has said that it has no intention of changing the "status quo", and has even banned Israeli Government Ministers from visiting the site to cool tensions. In principle, all people should be able to visit and pray at the holy site, but such religious freedom is unfortunately and in reality "too provocative".
Incitement by the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas and other extremist groups must be condemned
The false claim that Israelis are seeking to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount has been widely circulated by Hamas, other extremists groups and even in comments by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has further escalated the situation.
In September, ...Mahmoud Abbas said in referring to the riots taking place at Al-Aqsa
"Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every martyr will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God." Abbas added: "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours as well. They have no right to desecrate the mosque with their dirty feet, we won't allow them to do that."
On October 8, Abbas expressed support for Palestinians "who are defending the Aksa Mosque and are suffering a lot for the sake of defending it." Addressing the Israeli government, Abbas said: "Stay away from our Islamic and Christian holy sites." Abbas also said that the Palestinian flag would be raised over the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre when a Palestinian state is established.
During Abbas' UN General Assembly speech on September 30 he also stated:
"I call on the Israeli government, before it is too late, to cease its use of brutal force to impose its plans to undermine the Islamic and Christian sanctuaries in Jerusalem, particularly its actions at Al-Aqsa Mosque, for such actions will convert the conflict from a political to religious one, creating an explosive in Jerusalem and in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory."Despite PA incitement, Abbas claims that he is not interested in another uprising and has ordered PA security forces to take steps to calm the situation, and Israeli-PA security coordination has continued. The PA's two-sided approach to the violence shows that Abbas has the power to both inflame or de-escalate the situation.
Israel is seeking to restore calm and has called for peace negotiations with the Palestinians
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference on October 8:
"We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism with knives, firebombs, rocks and even live fire. While these acts are mostly unorganized, they are all the result of wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and - no less and frequently much more - the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is igniting the ground with lies regarding our policy on the Temple Mount and the purported changes that we want to make to the status quo," adding, "This is an absolute lie. We are also taking action against the inciters and the attackers."Netanyahu also indicated that he would like the centre-left Zionist Union opposition party to join the Coalition and form a unity government. However, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog has rejected the invitation.
Meanwhile, despite PA incitement, Israel remains committed to dialogue with the PA and would like to see the renewal of direct peace talks as soon as possible. As Netanyahu said in his UN General Assembly speech on September 30:
"I am prepared to immediately, immediately, resume direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions whatsoever. Unfortunately, President Abbas said yesterday that he is not prepared to do this. Well, I hope he changes his mind. Because I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state."